Orsulak may learn today if injury is thumbs-down DL possible; K.C. turf blamed for sprain


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Right fielder Joe Orsulak officially is listed as day-to-day following the diving play Saturday night that left him with a sprained left thumb, but there is a real possibility DTC that he'll be placed on the disabled list today.

Orsulak will be evaluated today by Orioles orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein and hand specialist Dr. Hugh Baugher, then the club will have to decide whether to replace him on the roster.

The club was optimistic about Orsulak's chances for a quick return after X-rays taken Saturday night proved negative, but Orsulak was very sore when he woke up yesterday and he was feeling the aftereffects of his jarring collision with the Royals Stadium AstroTurf in more places than one.

When Orsulak made his abortive attempt to catch a fifth-inning triple by Royals first baseman Wally Joyner, he also jammed his right shoulder and came up with soreness in his neck and back.

That gives the Orioles just another reason to hate artificial turf.

"I don't need another reason," said manager Johnny Oates.

The club is 10-12 on plastic grass, but the poor winning percentage pales in significance to the loss of one of the club's hottest hitters. Orsulak went hitless in his last nine at-bats, but he's batting .330 during his last 27 games and is the team's leading hitter at .307.

It was the second injury the Orioles have suffered because of surface conditions in the past eight days. Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe suffered a strained right trapezius (shoulder) muscle when he slipped on the mound at Oriole Park in the final game of the last homestand.

Sutcliffe feels the injury could have been prevented if the mound had been in better condition. Orsulak's injuries almost certainly would have been less severe on natural grass.

"I don't know about the thumb," said trainer Richie Bancells. "It might have been less severe. But I don't think the neck and shoulder and back would be hurting if he had made the play on grass."

Bancells said the weeklong road trip to SkyDome and Royals Stadium has taken a toll on the entire team, but that is business as usual.

"I've got a lot of guys coming in with leg soreness and back stiffness," he said, "and there is no doubt in my mind that it is not a coincidence. There is just no doubt."

Orsulak was in good spirits yesterday. He was walking around the clubhouse with a sign hanging from his neck that read: "I'm day-to-day -- leave me the heck alone."

"I don't really know what to tell you," he said. But his thumb was very swollen and he made no secret of the fact that it was much sorer than the night before.

Reserve outfielder Chito Martinez replaced him in right field Saturday night and was back in the starting lineup yesterday. He figures to be in the lineup on an everyday basis until Orsulak returns.

The club cannot afford to wait long to make a decision. The loss of Orsulak leaves David Segui as the only experienced outfielder in reserve. Utility man Tim Hulett could play in an emergency, but the team doesn't figure to leave itself that vulnerable at this point in a pennant race.

If a recall is necessary, the Orioles could recall outfielder Luis Mercedes, who has been swinging a hot bat for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, or try to make a waiver deal.

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